Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Permit

It was sad. It continues to be sad.

We were in the Backcountry office waiting for our turn when I noticed a poster with a photo of a runner from the Boston Marathon – a young female. I read the story of the 24 year old medical student who ran 90 miles per week and placed 15th in the marathon. With a friend she entered the canyon in July without a map, with gross misinformation about the length of the hike which was several miles longer than anticipated, with a snack and one and one-half liters of water. When her friend could go no further due to dehydration, she continued to look for water. The friend survived. Her body was found two days later. Sad.

Several years ago in Tennessee, I was descending a mountain when I passed a young boy of about 12 climbing at a fast pace. He was almost running. I wondered why his family let him get out of their sight. I expected to meet them within a hundred yards but didn’t. A while later I met a thin and frail woman who appeared to be about 80 slowly climbing the trail. She wasn’t far from the trailhead parking lot. She asked how far to the top and I told her she had about three and one-half miles and about 1800 feet elevation gain to go. As we talked, I learned it was her grandson I had passed. They had begun the “walk” without food, water or knowledge.

Only once in all the years and miles that I’ve hiked and backpacked have I misjudged a trail. About 15 years ago I was hiking in Tennessee in Savage Gulf. I got a later start than planned, took my time on the hike into the Gulf and then encountered a boulder field that seemed to go on for ever. As the afternoon waned, I was in no danger but was dog-tired and running much later than planned. Each step was a cautious decision as boulders rolled, rocked and moved. It was a slow and tiring hike with a full pack. When I finally climbed out of the Gulf to the campsite on the far side, I couldn’t fully enjoy the evening because I was dreading the return the next day knowing I wouldn’t get home until midnight. Live and learn.

When our turn came, the lady in the Backcountry office was extremely helpful. On a scale of one to five, I would give her a six. In the end, we changed our requested dates by three weeks and got a permit for three nights in the canyon.

There are two hikes that Julie fondly refers to as the “hikes from hell”. One was on Sandia Crest above Albuquerque. At 10,000 feel we encountered more snow than anticipated. The other was in the Guadalupe Mountains in western Texas. The temperature was 107 and shade was non-existant.

I don’t plan on giving her a third hike from hell. We're limiting ourselves to 10 miles per day and less than that in the canyon. We've planned two days of seven miles each descending to the river and two days of five miles each climbing the 4,380 feet out of the canyon.

When we arrive on the South Rim on July 3, we have reservations for a room in a lodge – an air-conditioned room!


Blogger Buffalo said...

Glad you got 'em!

2/11/2007 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

You guys are incredible. Hike on, dude ... and, er, duchess.

2/12/2007 07:59:00 AM  

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